Today marks the 60th and final day of the 2014 legislative session!
As the time before the Legislature adjourns sine die ticks away, here’s a look at what’s been accomplished for kids and families this session:
- Treating Kids Like Kids: Nebraska passed another significant overhaul of its juvenile justice system, LB 464. The most significant part of this bill requires that the cases of most youth start in juvenile court rather than adult criminal court. This will not only make it easier for youth to be held accountable in more appropriate, effective ways, but will also improve public safety.
- Addressing the “Cliff Effect” in Child Care: The Legislature passed LB 359 aimed at addressing the “cliff effect” in the child care subsidy program where a small raise pushes a family over the eligibility threshold and makes child care unaffordable. Families will now be allowed a 10 percent earned income disregard for ongoing assistance. The bill was also amended to include a bill that helps ensure that families on public benefits aren’t penalized for pursuing higher education.
- Strengthening Permanency for Kids in Foster Care: Too many youth in the child welfare system linger for long periods of time in foster care or age out of the system. LB 908 creates a better system for permanent guardianship, which is especially important for kinship families.
- Keeping Youth out of the Juvenile Justice System: The Legislature reformed a recent Nebraska law requiring students automatically be referred to the court system after missing a certain number of school days. With the passage of LB 464, the law now requires schools to work collaboratively with students and parents to address barriers to attendance, making court involvement a last resort.
- Expanded Coverage of Treatment for Kids with Autism: Although it has not yet received final approval, the Legislature passed LB 505 (now LB 254) to ensure that more insurance companies are required to cover effective early intervention treatment for kids diagnosed with Autism.
- Supporting Families at the Front Door of the Child Welfare System: The Legislature authorized the implementation and evaluation of an alternative response pilot project in Nebraska, with the passage of LB 853. Instead of a one-size –fits all front door, our child welfare system will better be able to keep kids safe by partnering with their families in low and moderate-risk cases.
- Improving “Access Nebraska”: The Legislature took an important step aimed at improving the efficiency of our public programs by establishing a committee to make recommendations to address the ongoing problems with our Access Nebraska public benefits application system.
While there’s certainly been a lot accomplished this year, there is also plenty of unfinished business. We hope that policymakers will continue working to address the issues that weren’t addressed this year.
- Increasing the Minimum Wage: The Legislature failed to pass a bill that would have increased the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour. Our Family Bottom Line report released earlier this year showed that Nebraska families can’t survive on $7.25 per hour.
- Improving Nebraska’s School Breakfast Program: The Legislature also failed to pass a bill that would have helped more kids have access to the School Breakfast Program. Nebraska currently ranks almost last in the nation for the number of eligible kids participating in the school breakfast program.
- Streamlining Public Programs: The Legislature didn’t take action on a bill that would have streamlined asset limits in our public benefit programs. This would have helped make our public programs work better for both participants and program staff.